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McCartney concert unites father and son

Twenty years ago, my father and I traveled to Cincinnati to visit his brother, and see a Reds game.

I was 24, and my dad was 54. I don't remember a lot from the trip, but I do remember it as time with my father. In a family of five children, there wasn't a lot of alone time with either of your parents. My dad worked two full-time jobs, so there was even less of a chance of it with him.

My dad passed away on Dec. 1 that year, just five months after our trip. Although he wasn't a fit person, we had no idea he would be gone so soon.

This past summer, almost 20 years to the day, I returned to Cincinnati with my 15-year-old son James, who shares his name with my father. We were going to see Paul McCartney in concert at the Reds' ballpark.

I don't get caught up in meanings of events, or why things happen. But I do believe that this world is inexplicably interwoven, and the events that involve and surround us are all related.

The McCartney concert, for me, was that type of event. As a youngster, I didn't know much about the Beatles. I was 4 when they split. I had 45s of their individual work, but I didn't realize that these songs were created by Beatles.

I started to recognize their greatness as I was entering high school. I had become a fan of music, and a neighbor gave me some Beatles records, including "Abbey Road," "Let It Be," "Revolver" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

I was hooked. I bought more, read biographies, watched documentaries and listened. I became a full-fledged fan. This all came back to me as James and I made the drive to Cincinnati. I thought about the books, the music and seeing the Broadway production of "Beatlemania."

And I thought about my dad, and our trip to Cincinnati.

My son shares my interest in sports and music, and the Beatles. We both play guitar. James is better. He's in a band. Their first gig was at our church picnic this summer. The fact that McCartney and John Lennon played together for the first time at a church picnic is not lost on either one of us.

I can be emotionally charged, but I don't often share or show my emotions. James is the same way. So I was surprised as we were waiting for the concert to start that he put his arm around me and said thanks.

McCartney opened with "Hello Goodbye" and the place erupted. The sold-out crowd was on its feet for most of the show.

It's incredible how music can bring back very specific memories; memories that flooded back with each song.

It was my sister's choice to have "Let It Be" played at my mother's funeral, so I couldn't help but think of both my mom and my sister during that beautiful song.

And during the encore, I thought once more about my dad. Although he wasn't a Beatles fan, he would say how impressed he was that someone as young as McCartney could write "Yesterday," and how true to life the words to that song are for so many people.

Driving home, James told me he was so happy during the concert that he almost cried three times, including during "Let It Be."

I cannot believe 20 years has passed since we lost my father, but I am glad to have great memories of him and my mother; memories that my wife and I now provide for our children.


Tom Burns, who lives in Buffalo, is a communications professional at Niagara University.